Each year Bartow County, and any municipality sitting on a river, creek or stream, must submit a watershed protection plan to the state’s Environmental Protection Division. The plan reports the status of the various flowing waters in the county and how the local governments are working to ensure they are healthy for local species.
Sometimes that includes giving fish an electrical shock so they can be counted.
In Upper Two Run Creek, Catherine A. Fox, senior scientist at Fox Environmental LLC, which has handled the county’s testing for the past five years, said her employees and subcontractor found 27 different species of fish in the water, and not one of them were catfish.
Upper Two Run Creek was just one of several sites tested throughout the county for the report, which is due every summer.
“We measure [the sites] on varying frequencies depending on what is approved by the state, and some of them we measure the water quality, and some of them we measure both the water quality and biology,” Fox said. “We measure the insect population...we measure those and then we look at the habitat, the buffers, the sediment in the stream and different kinds of food that’s available for the critters.”
The report is compiled for the Bartow County Water and Sewer Department, and also benefits the Community Development Department, which oversees stormwater management. The report is necessary for any county or city to continue operating its sewer and water departments.
“You have to. It’s for all the cities and counties throughout the state that have waste management plants. [They] also have a watershed protection plan and they have to implement that plan. Part of it requires monitoring of the streams to measure the health and make adjustments to the plant to maximize the health [of the streams],” Fox said.
The inspections are done on a rotating schedule, said BCWSD Superintendent Gene Camp.
“Some of it has to be done four times a year. ... So it depends on the stream and condition it is in and any impairments that may have been identified in the past,” he said.
A stream is impaired when it is not meeting its designated use, such as providing drinking water, fishing or recreation. Creeks in urban areas can be impaired by erosion or pollution. In rural areas, a stream can be impaired through erosion as well, as cattle herds can erode the banks when they walk through the area. When teams or subcontractors with Fox Environmental go out to inspect the areas, they look for such signs of impairment.
“When we look at the biology, we’re looking at the diversity and abundance. So, how many there are present of individuals as well as the species that are present. We are hoping to find sensitive species, those that are found in clean water, clean streams. We want to find, and hope, that they’re there, which we are finding. We’re finding lots of sensitive and important species. We’re even finding some that are on the list of threatened species,” Fox said.
Stamp Creek, Fox added, is one of the cleaner streams in Bartow County. Camp said the creek had previously been on the impaired list, but the county was able to get it off the list through its watershed plan.
“This is an ongoing project that we’re doing,” Camp said of the county’s overall plan. “As we identify problems with streams, [we] try to identify what the cause is and take corrective action.”
Overall, Fox said Bartow County had clean streams in good repair. However, some that are impaired include one of Pettit Creek’s tributaries and Nancy Creek. Even still, Fox believed most of the county’s streams and creeks were in good shape.
“I think that there’s less pressure of development in some northern parts of the county. I do think that people respect the streams for the most part, is my feeling, and they’re not dumping in them as much. They value the natural environment. I think that’s a good sign, that people care about the streams in Bartow County,” she said.